One of the
changes that COVID-19 has brought to us is
a renewed interest in baking bread. For a
while, it seemed that grocery stores had a
very limited supply of flour and yeast as
people were afraid that they would no
longer be able to buy bread. Did workers
now compelled to stay home take up baking
as a way to fill time or be creative?
make us think back to the last century
when there simply was no bread to buy and
baking several loaves was almost an
everyday ritual. Looking through the old
cookbooks in the Onoway Museum and at some
of the implements used to bake bread might
alert us to how far we've come (or how
spoiled we've become?). Today you just
dump the ingredients in the bread machine
and wait for the beep that tells you it's
always been that easy.
How the early
settlers made bread is almost too
difficult to imagine. It started with
grinding wheat to make flour and making
yeast from hops and potatoes. Some starter
dough was kept from one batch to the next
to provide the "yeast". Tough to envision.
It's an easier leap forward to times when
you could buy sacks of flour and cakes of
yeast or even dry yeast.
cookbooks introduce bread-making with
comments similar to this "... it is almost
impossible to make bread without
experiencing the sweat of the brow and an
aching back. The three important
requisites to the making of good bread
are: good flour, good fresh yeast, and
strength and endurance to knead or work it
Babette's Cook Book, Foreign and
Domestic Receipts for the Household
published in Cincinnati, c1889.
wives made bread dough in an enamel pan,
kneaded it for a long while (10 to 30
minutes) depending on how big a batch and
the type of yeast), then let it rise in a
warm place before cutting it into
loaf-size balls and shaping to fit the
pan. Another rising, then it's ready for
Tips on kneading bread (from another
leave your hands perfectly clean
the palm of your hand, kneading toward
the centre of the ball
re-bound like a rubber ball.
sold in cotton sacks
which were then
re-cycled, often into
pillow cases or diapers.
The instructions for
removing the dye are
still visible here: "to
remove ink soak
overnight in cold water
then wash out with soap
and hot water.
bin and pan
usually purchased in
100-pound sacks, then
stored in a metal flour
bin (this one is 27½ x
15 inches). Bread was
made and let rise in a
bread pan, often made of
spotty blue enamel. The
pan is 17 inches across
x 7½ inches deep
cookbooks to help sell
their products. Local
merchants joined in giving
gifts like this ceramic
pitcher which advertised
imagine how much time and effort went into
making enough bread for a threshing crew
of 10 to 12 hungry workers. Or just making
enough bread for a growing family.
brought better ovens (no more wood-burning
stoves), dry yeast, bread-maker pails
(smaller amounts, no kneading), then
breadmaking machines (1986).
nothing that beats the smell of
fresh-baked bread coming from the oven!
Try it! It's easy to do in COVID times!
from kneading was bread
maker pails. The
instructions are on the
lid of the pail: "Put in
all liquids first, then
flour. Turn 3 minutes.
Raise in pail. After
raising turn until dough
forms a ball. Take out
cross piece, lift out
dough with kneader."
That's all there is to it!